Last month I set a new goal for myself and decided to focus on creating some new designs that don’t rely so heavily on steel cables. Up to this point, the use of steel cables has been the signature of just about all of my designs, but it has also created a bit of a bottleneck in my production. The process of stringing and tightening steel cables one by one for every piece I manufacture is a time consuming one and, frankly, can get pretty boring. I have spent thousands of hours wiring up the same designs over and over and, while I enjoy creating tension-based designs, I wouldn’t mind branching out.
In addition to being time consuming, the process of tensioning steel cables took me several years to perfect and it cannot be instantly taught to another person. I have occasionally considered the possibility of hiring someone to help me with manufacturing my products, but the idea is always squashed when I consider the complexity involved in making my designs. By developing designs that have fewer or no steel cables, I’m hoping to have a line of products that is easier to make and that can be manufactured, at least in part, by people other than myself. At the same time, I want to maintain a unique aesthetic that will set my work apart. It’s a bit of a tricky balance to find, but I took my first crack at it with a new lamp design.
With this new lamp I was, unfortunately, not very successful at developing a product that would be easier to produce. Although I came up with a design that required only two cables and was relatively easy to wire up, I got carried away with creating a shade that incorporated an almost unmanageable number of walnut slats and thus effectively substituted one time drain for another.
Though it’s unlikely that this lamp will become one of my products, its creation was by no means a waste of time. There’s always a period of experimentation (and often failure) when I’m working on a new idea and it’s through this experimentation that I learn new skills and generate new ideas that, if not immediately applicable, may come in handy down the road. In this instance, when coming up with ideas for the lamp, I decided to experiment with using the CAD program Autodesk Inventor as a key element in my design process (I’m a little late to the party, I know).
In the past, I have relied mostly on my sketchbook for brainstorming and visualizing a final product before beginning to prototype it in three dimensions. In this case, I did some very early brainstorming in my sketchbook, but then turned to Autodesk to flesh out the idea. I had several thoughts going in of what the lampshade and supports could look like, but I wasn’t sure what the best combinations would be. With Autodesk, I figured I would be able to more easily visualize different shade and support combinations than I would otherwise have been able to on paper. Though the final design ended up being very difficult to produce, Autodesk proved to be a useful design tool and I’ll definitely use it more in the future.
Like I mentioned before, I got a little carried away with the design of the lamp and ended up creating a shade that involved way too many pieces. The slat-based design called for 34 walnut pieces to be glued together into nine frames that slotted into the two cherry supports. While I like the final result, the time required to assemble it makes it a bad candidate for production on a larger scale. Before I give up on the idea completely, however, I may play around with the shade design to see if I can simplify it for easier production. It often takes several iterations before a product is ready to go, so I’ll be sure to update the blog with any further versions of the design.